So that was the last ever boat show at Earls Court. Despite years of grumbling about the lack of space...
So that was the last ever boat show at Earls Court. Despite years of grumbling about the lack of space, the grubby nature of the locale, and the non-existent transport links, it seems that we quite liked the place and will miss it. Except for me. I for one can’t wait for the whole shooting-match to move to ExCel – a large, modern, purpose-built venue and just what’s needed to ‘freshen up’ the London Boat Show.
There have been gloomy predictions that attendances will fall but I suspect that a good deal of the moaning comes from exhibitors for whom a fine meal in the evening, a trip to the January sales, and dress-circle tickets to Les Miserables are of paramount importance. When the Motor Show and the Motorcycle Show moved from London to the NEC in Birmingham there was the opposite effect – attendances soared and the industry reaped the benefits.
I went to a motorcycle show at ExCel last year as a punter, with my wife and three kids. The experience could not have been better. Getting there is easy by road and public transport, and the venue is clean, bright and welcoming. But what really made the show for us were the ‘extra’ attractions. When the kids started to get a bit fed up with me blithering on about fork offset and compression-damping adjustment, we went and watched the skateboarders and BMXers performing on the half-pipe. After another hour of trawling round the stands we took the kids to do the bungey-jump thing, where they strap your sprog into a harness and then fire them 50ft in the air.
And that’s what boat shows currently lack – diversions for those people who are tagging along with some boat-obsessed loon. ExCel is an opportunity to turn the show into something fantastic, something enjoyable for anyone between the ages of five and 85. And I’m not talking about half-a-dozen Turkish folk dancers, I’m talking about things that make you go “wow!” If the organisers can do that, the future of the London Boat Show at ExCel is very rosy indeed.